A new Pew Center survey shows Donald Trump down 4 points nationally to Hillary Clinton, which counts as good news for a candidate who’s further behind in most recent surveys.
But beyond that topline number, the poll contained one important thematic question that offers a glimpse of what a winning Trump effort might look like. It shows that Trump voters overwhelmingly have the view that life in America has gotten worse for "people like you" over the past 50 years and that a clear majority of Americans overall agree with this pessimistic assessment.
Clinton’s campaign message has been considerably more upbeat than this. And it would be very difficult for her to pivot to a downbeat message. Her supporters, for starters, have a sunnier view of things. And young people and African Americans, two groups that she really needs to make sure turn out to vote in November, see the glass as half full.
Beyond that, Clinton is running as a kind of de facto successor to both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, so it’s inherently challenging for her to argue that the United States has been poorly governed under their guidance.
And yet most people — including pretty overwhelming margins of white people and people without college degrees — see life as having gotten worse over the past 50 years.
Over the past month, Trump has manifested far too many flaws to really be in a position to take advantage of any kind of potentially promising campaign themes. But the kind of nostalgia politics he offers in his more coherent moments has a large constituency, and Clinton is very poorly situated to cater to it in any way.